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A Culture in Ruins

November 24th, 2013 - 11:19 pm

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Lady Gaga reportedly spent $25 million on pop art to jazz up her new and apparently underwhelming album. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ sexual twerking at the MTV Music Video Awards earned her more millions by exposing her rather unimpressive anatomy. Both make the once vulgar Madonna seem like June Cleaver, but at least raise an existential question: how much lower can we go?

Meanwhile, hip-hop artist Kanye West is promoting his own new music video. He seems to be having sex with his girlfriend Kim Kardashian while riding a motorcycle. If you did not know that Kanye West was the singer of the background music, by the quality of the lyrics and beat, you might think that a fourth grader was spewing rhymed obscenities, in the fashion that Gaga and Cyrus make up with obscenity, both spoken and visual, what they lack in musical, dance, and artistic talent.

In the two-second attention spans of our app culture, a bare nipple, a potty-mouth obscenity, or a multimillionaire’s flippant reference to a “ho” earns followers and thus big money in a way that even once cutting-edge Elvis Presley’s melodies or an against-the-grain Van Gogh impressionistic painting or a T.S. Eliot poem could never quite seem so shockingly profitable.

Professors know that bored students do their Facebooking rather than listen to lectures. Commuters fear that texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Pedestrians are hit by other strollers whose heads are glued to iPhones. No one believes that such fixations arise from watching the History Channel, googling the Renaissance, or reading the Economist. No matter — in our therapeutic culture, in theory millions of students could do all those things, so the next new fad for our broke universities and trillion-dollar indebted college students is to provide them all with free iPads. Only the absence of an iPad robs us of future Edisons and Einsteins.

The radically egalitarian ethos demands always the descent to the lowest common denominators of taste. A world without requisites is the fairest. To capture the most attention of the masses requires a Cyrus, Gaga, or West. Once classical canons of artistic, literary, or musical expression were torn down, and once those classically trained rebels who ripped them apart have passed on, we are left with the ruins of trying to shock what is perhaps beyond being shocked. What more could Miley Cyrus do — wear two foam fingers? Could Mr. West mount his girlfriend, and sing and dance while riding backwards?

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The World of the Coliseum

November 17th, 2013 - 6:53 pm

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I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.

Latifundia

Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.

Where did they go?

I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?

When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers.  Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?

I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage.

The Tech Ghettos

The new pyramid is not just agricultural. Go to Silicon Valley. In all the old quaint homes of Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto that I remember visiting in the 1960s, there is only a small middle class. The houses, true, are almost preserved in amber, appearing just as they did on the tree-lined streets a half-century ago. But what is in them now?

Strapped $400,000 a year-income couples paying $10,000 a month in taxes and mortgages for $800-per-square-foot old frame cottages are not what I remember. Even a far greater number of residents are renting $2,000 a month apartments, while a vast underclass of families in Redwood City and East Palo Alto quadruples up in rented 1,000 square-foot houses.

A few tech and financing geniuses live in splendor in Woodside or Portola Valley (well, not quite in splendor: air lift their multimillion-dollar castles to Fresno or Merced and their square footages and design would suddenly be considered no more than mere $500,000 nice, big houses).

What drives the new madcap California rush to the high-priced coastal strip? The weather has not changed since 1960. Stanford is still Stanford; Berkeley remains Berkeley. Is it the destruction of the old interior muscular world and the new high profits of the cerebral coastal? Does one pass up a $150,000 house in Madera to go into life-long debtor status to buy something smaller for $1 million to escape the dividends of illegal immigration and vast entitlements in the interior?

The small dry cleaner and his wife the teacher do not buy a nice 1,500 square foot home in San Carlos, start their 3-children family in their twenties, and join the middle class. More likely the future bridegroom is still single, living at home until he is 30. His would-be wife is still renting. And at 35 they might marry and have one child with a $600,000 mortgage. There is no room there for the middle-class family starting out youthful, with visions of a ranch house, kids, good jobs, and upward mobility.

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America’s Wilderness Years

November 11th, 2013 - 2:39 pm
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Help! Is there anybody out there?!

Most two-term presidents leave some sort of legacy. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. George W. Bush prevented another 9/11, and constructed an anti-terrorism protocol that even his critical successor embraced and often expanded.

Even our one-term presidents have achieved something. JFK got Soviet missiles out of Cuba. LBJ oversaw passage of civil rights legislation. Jerry Ford restored integrity to the White House. Jimmy Carter finally issued the Carter Doctrine to stop Soviet expansionism at the Persian Gulf. George H.W. Bush won the first Persian Gulf War and got Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

And even our impeached or abdicated presidents at least left some positive legacies. Richard Nixon went to China and enacted détente. Bill Clinton through compromise balanced the budget and incurred budget surpluses.

But Barack Obama?

The economy is anemic. We have never seen unemployment dip below 7% in the last five years. Real jobless rates that include those who have given up on working are perhaps double the official figures. By 2017 the national debt will have doubled. The stimulus did not lead to a “summer of recovery.”

Near zero interest rates, vast expansions in the money supply, and huge increases in federal redistributive payouts have not jump-started anything — except to end entirely the cherished American idea of receiving a modest interest rate on lifelong passbook savings accounts. The middle class has been squeezed as never before, lacking the administration’s romance of the poor and its crony-capitalism connections of the rich.

Even with new taxes on top incomes, the end of the war in Iraq, sequestration, and a supposed recovery, the 2013 annual deficit will still near $700 billion — a bragging point for Obama, given that this is the first year of his administration that we did not borrow over $1 trillion. To the degree that Obama has made headway — the sequestration forcing cuts and reducing the 2013 budget deficit somewhat, or gas and oil production soaring on private lands — success has come despite his opposition, not because of his advocacy.

Not since Richard Nixon have we seen such a record of scandal. The disclosures of wrong-doing and cover-ups now come so often that they become mind-numbing — Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS, AP, NSA, and ACA messes. After the president’s flips and flops over Syria, confusion about Egypt, and leading from behind in Libya, no one believes him — which is why also that no one was surprised at home about the untruth about Obamacare. In such a context, misdeeds like the Pigford payouts or Solyndra do not even raise an eyebrow.

Foreign policy is likewise in shambles. No one in the administration brags of “leading from behind” in Libya, or of “reset” with Russia, or of “red lines” and “game changers” in Syria. On most foreign policy issues, Obama is to the left of the current French socialist government. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s legacy is trying to bypass the UN about Syria, exceeding the UN mandate in Libya, and now ignoring it with Iran.

I know of no major Democrat figure who claims a foreign policy success for this administration — unless estrangement from Israel, or the courting of Islamists in Turkey and Egypt, or open mic promises to go easy on Russia after the election count. The irony is that the more the Obama administration has courted our enemies — Venezuela, the Islamist Middle East, Iran — the more they have disliked us, as our appeasement earned contempt rather than appreciation of magnanimity. There is no longer an American-led West. Germany is becoming the world’s fiscal arbitrator, France the Western bulwark against radical Islam, Japan the impediment to Chinese expansionism, Israel and the Persian Gulf the last chance to stop an Iranian bomb.

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The Double-Dealing Middle East Is Double-Dealt

November 4th, 2013 - 7:02 pm

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Boo-hoo, Middle East

About every day or so, a throat-clearing Middle East pundit weighs in to warn us of the Obama’s administration’s dereliction of traditional American engagement. They rightly lament “lead from behind” in Libya. After Benghazi, Libya has turned into something like Somalia. Far more are dying there from sectarian chaos than during the latter years of the hated Moammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship.

The Sunni reactionary establishment of the Gulf is right to deplore Obama’s incoherent flip-flop-flips in Egypt and Syria. The oil lords logically conclude that a directionless president will do nothing to stop Iran’s race to get a bomb — and all the subsequent Middle East WMD catch-ups to match it.

Even Obama’s pet Turkey seems confused that its favorite administration is now nowhere to be seen. The Iraqis were given a fresh start after the surge and hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. aid — and still claimed that they wanted the U.S. out. Obama gladly called their hand. Now, left to themselves, they are reverting to the pre-surge violence, whining about security and sectarianism — and back asking us for even more money. Rule One: never bluff an isolationist to yank all his forces from your country.

After twelve years, it is clear that triple-dealing President Hamid Karzai never made the reforms in Afghanistan that he promised. Now he will soon be on his own too, as Kabul comes to resemble the disaster of Saigon, 1975. He is correct in lamenting U.S. withdrawal, and yet about the most unsympathetic of the many unattractive dependents American has acquired in the Middle East.

Visitors from an alien planet might conclude of the region that Saddams come and go. Arab Springs and Cedar and Green Revolutions rise and fall. Socialists and fascists, Islamists and Baathists all wax and wane. All the while, the Middle East — statist, authoritarian, anti-democratic, religiously intolerant, tribal, misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and exploitive — stays mostly the same and so in a way earns the wide varieties of awful government that it suffers from.

In response to complaints of American retreat, National Security Advisor Susan Rice doubled down on the Obama neo-isolationism. She shrugged that, other than worries over an Iranian bomb, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and free commerce in and out of the Persian Gulf, the U.S. can no longer be all that bothered about regional violence, much less think it can push down reluctant throats Western-style consensual government. She at least hit upon one point, in the sense that U.S. abdication was a sort of payback for past ingratitude.

Such retrenchment may be disastrous. Indeed, the region, in response, is certainly heating up as the U.S. backs off.  Vladimir Putin seems eager to fill the void. The Shiite-Sunni wars escalate. Al-Qaeda has spread and multiplied. China will come in to protect its own huge oil appetites. Christians will vanish from the region.

The Obama administration most likely is pulling in its horns for a variety of practical reasons. In general, in the era of sequestration and still massive deficits, it is cutting back on lots of defense and forward deployment. Obama believes that every dollar spent on defense abroad comes at the expense of a lost food stamp or one less disability check at home.

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Questions Rarely Asked—and Never Answered

October 28th, 2013 - 7:27 pm

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It Can’t Happen Here?

What does it take to warn Americans about unchecked pension growth, socialized medicine, vast increases in entitlements, higher taxes, and steady expansion of government? In other words, what is it about Detroit, Italy, or Greece that we do not understand?

In the last five years, the Obama administration has raised taxes on the top income rates, implemented Obamacare, added millions to the disability and food stamp roles, grown the size of the federal work force, run up the national debt, and vastly expanded the money supply, along with insuring near zero interest rates. Are there any historical examples where these redistributive efforts have brought long-term tranquility and prosperity?

To put it another way, does anyone ask basic questions about human nature anymore? If one gives more incentives to obtain government support while unemployed, why would not fewer people be working? If the food stamp, unemployment, and disability rolls are markedly up, and if it is almost impossible to verify that recipients are also not working for unreported cash wages (we hear mostly of government efforts to add more to these programs, rather than to audit those already on them), why would one seek a “regular” job that would lose such subsidies and make all one’s income reportable? (We know two basic truths about the IRS in the age of Obama: first, it goes after political opponents in partisan fashion, and second, it gives away billions of dollars in federal income tax rebate credits to those who did not deserve them.)

If you allow illegal immigrants to enjoy full government subsidies, driver’s licenses, in-state tuition discounts, sanctuary cities, participation on juries, and all without fear of deportation, then why (a) would people not flock here illegally from Mexico, and (b) why after arriving would they go through the hassle of seeking citizenship when residency provides almost all the same benefits?

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The Launch of the Freedom Academy

October 28th, 2013 - 6:23 am

Today launches the Freedom Academy®, a project some 18 months in the making. In the present age, we need a meeting place where people can rediscover what freedom entails and appreciate the origins and role of liberty. The majority of Americans yearn for a rebirth of these values that have sustained Western civilization, and birthed the American experiment. Such reverence for our heritage and origins is why we at PJ Media will offer a variety of ways to understand our present dilemmas through an appreciation of past ideas and events.

Despite all the contemporary upheavals in Washington—whether over the government shutdown, debt-ceiling increase, or Obamacare—we can be certain that history remains both our gateway to the future and our window to the past. The political strife we are witnessing is not new, but a continuance of the age-old struggle between the tragic and therapeutic views of the human condition, over the collision of history and humanities with the social sciences, and the liberty of the individual pitted against the coercive power of the collective.

We cannot fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of our current challenges if we do not study the world around us through learning from past events and the contributions of earlier minds—both the ordeals and triumphs of people of action, and the thoughts and ideas of others who tried to make sense of such events through literature and philosophy.

The Academy is the online home for the intellectually curious. They can draw on a book club that encourages reading and discussion of the principles of freedom and liberty, e-books, discussion guides, and a video lecture series that bring to life the ideas, people and states that shaped Western civilization.

Anyone can read, listen, or watch the current news. Yet if you want to place the present noise in a larger context of understanding modern civilization, then the Freedom Academy Lecture Series and its Book Club can aid your odyssey of intellectual and political discovery. While we have created the content of the Academy especially for those who love freedom and liberty—and are worried over the present endangerment of both—we were also mindful to make our offerings appealing to all generations through videos, written texts, and web formats.

Beginning with the first lecture series, the Odyssey of Western Civilization, I will guide viewers on a 2,500-year journey across the landscape of Western civilization, from its origins in the Greek city-states to its most affluent and free expression in modern America. The second series, The Western Story, explores the many connections between the classical Greek and Roman worlds and the present era, and how our contemporary experiences are explicable through the knowledge of our classical culture and civilization. My final series, History in the News, also correlates the present with the present by showing how present controversies are best understood through drawing on historical precedents.

The Freedom Academy also features a fourth video lecture series created and narrated by Scott Ott. Called Freedom’s Charter, this 20-episode video series takes you behind the scenes of the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Comprised of four-lecture series, the Freedom Academy’s online video lectures and companion e-books can be purchased on its website http://freedomacademy.com. The Freedom Academy Book Club is free and a veritable intersection where those who cherish freedom and liberty can explore books that can shape our common destiny.

President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history…[we] will be remembered in spite of ourselves.” I fully agree with Lincoln and I so also believe “we know how to save the Union.” If we do not educate ourselves on our past—and the past of other nations—then we fail. The choice is ours to make, or break, the “last best hope of earth.”

The Democratic Disasters to Come

October 20th, 2013 - 7:26 pm

The defunding wars are over. The accusations are fading. We are back to reality. Of course, America’s long-term prospects, at least in comparison with other countries’ futures — whether in terms of demography, military power, food-production, constitutional stability, energy sources, or higher education — are bright.

But short term, we are walking over landmines that threaten to blow up the normal way of doing business, and pose far more harm for Democrats than for Republicans.

Zero Interest

The real story about the debt is that by the end of Obama’s eight years, he will have matched the borrowing of all previous presidents combined.  Yet incredibly, the present huge sum of $17 trillion in debt is serviced at the same cost that we paid over 15 years ago. Such free use of money without raging inflation is almost historically unprecedented — and it won’t last.

Indeed, we are paying today about the same amount in aggregate annual interest payments, in non-inflation-adjusted dollars no less, as in 1997 — even though the 2012 figure of $17 trillion in debt is about three times larger than it was a decade-and-a-half ago. That anomaly is possible only because today’s interest rate of about 2.2% is only a third of what it was back then.

If interest ever returned to 1997 levels, at say 6.6%, we’d be paying over a trillion dollars a year in debt service. In crude terms, the winners of this Ponzi scheme are the very wealthy connected to Wall Street, which is flooded with foreign and domestic capital. It need not do much of anything more than outperform a pathetic 1% return on savings accounts.

The poor benefit from the vast increase in federal spending and exemption from federal income taxes. In contrast, the middle class still pays high interest on its student loans, credit card, and, to a lesser extent, car debt, receives almost no interest on its meager savings accounts, and is not so ready, after 2008, to dabble in real estate and the stock market.

In some sense, holders of U.S. Treasury debt and passbook savers are giving up hundreds of billions of dollars in interest returns (cf. the difference, say, between 1% and a more normal 5%) to subsidize the redistributive policies of the federal government.

The lack of interest, or de facto negative interest, keeps the near-retired working and hampers job prospects of the young; discourages thrift, savings and investment; and plays an underappreciated role in the slow economic recovery. The Democrats must deal with the contradiction of needing zero interest rates to service their recent extra $6 trillion in debt, and higher interest to encourage savings, investment, and job growth.

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Reading Among the Ruins

October 14th, 2013 - 9:39 pm
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Background image by Shutterstock.com.

I have been reading both new and classic books this week among the ruins (see photos below).

Martin Anderson, now almost in his 90th year, has written a fascinating memoir about fashioning a cattle and big-game preservation ranch in Africa: Galana: Elephant, Game Domestication, and Cattle on a Kenya Ranch. At one time Galana was believed to have been the largest single ranching operation in Africa, and one encouraged by the Kenyan government to be a model of tourism, cattle production, and wildlife protection. Galana is an analytical but also personal memoir about what Africa was like in its once hopeful and immediate postcolonial phase, and how Martin Anderson in his late thirties came to the Kenyan wild in 1960, when most Westerners were leaving, often for understandable reasons. When I last saw Martin two weeks ago, he was headed to Nairobi, undaunted by the recent Islamic violence at the shopping center, and eager to return to his ranch. When talking with Martin (who appears more like 65 than 89), one realizes that in some sense age is a state of mind — and old age a referendum on a life either smartly or unwisely lived.

Speaking of the bush and the wild, as I was finishing rereading Galana last evening, I got a call from my son about a truck speeding out of the family vineyard alleyway across the road. Yes, I know, reader — same old, same old:

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Photo by Victor Davis Hanson. Click to enlarge.

The miscreants had already dumped their trash: chemical drums, paints, solvents, oils, concrete, tires, garbage, and lots of broken fluorescent glass tubes — something a bit worse than the usual toxic brew that is left on San Joaquin Valley property.

How strange that the California legislature can pass all sorts of new laws over the last six months — transgendered access to either boy or girl restrooms in the public schools, the banning of lead bullets, driver’s licenses for illegal aliens — but it cannot go after the epidemic of destroying the ecology of the San Joaquin Valley countryside. If only there were a spotted toad or a lavender newt native to the vineyard, perhaps the Bay Area intelligentsia would change their views about unchecked illegal immigration. I think the rationale of the dumpers is that there are always enough law-abiding citizens left to pick up after the casual law-breaking of the fewer. But are the fewer still the fewer?

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Obama as Chaos

October 6th, 2013 - 11:02 pm

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 Amid all the charges and countercharges in Washington over the government shutdown, there is at least one common theme: Barack Obama’s various charges always lead to a dead end. They are chaos, and chaos is hard to understand, much less refute.

By that I mean when the president takes up a line of argument against his opponents, it cannot really be taken seriously — not just because it is usually not factual, but also because it always contradicts positions that Obama himself has taken earlier or things he has previously asserted. Whom to believe — Obama 1.0, Obama 2.0, or Obama 3.0?

When the president derides the idea of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, we almost automatically assume that he himself tried to do just that when as a senator he voted against the Bush administration request in 2006, when the debt was about $6 trillion less than it is now.

When the president blasts the Republicans for trying to subvert the “settled law” of Obamacare, we trust that Obama himself had earlier done precisely that when he unilaterally subverted his own legislation — by quite illegally discarding the employer mandate provision of Obamacare. At least the Republicans tried to revise elements of Obamacare through existing legislative protocols; the president preferred executive fiat to nullify a settled law.

When the president deplores the lack of bipartisanship and the lockstep Republican effort to defund Obamacare, we remember that the president steamrolled the legislation through the Congress without a single Republican vote.

When the president laments the loss of civility and reminds the public that he uses “calm” rhetoric during the impasse, we know he has accused his opponents of being on an “ideological crusade” and of being hostage takers and blackmailers who have “a gun held to the head of the American people,” while his top media adviser Dan Pfeiffer has said that they had “a bomb strapped to their chest.”

When the president insists that the Republican effort to hold up the budget is unprecedented, we automatically deduce that, in fact, the action has many precedents, and on frequent prior occasions was a favored ploy of Democrats to gain leverage over Republican administrations.

In short, whenever the president prefaces a sweeping statement with one of his many emphatics — “make no mistake about it,” “I’m not making this up,” “in point of fact,” “let me be perfectly clear” — we know that the reverse is always true. For Obama, how something is said matters far more than what is said. If he stumbles, as is his wont, through an un-teleprompted remark that on rare occasions can be mostly accurate, that is a serious lapse; if, more frequently, he mellifluously asserts a teleprompted falsehood, there is little worry. The result is not so much untruth, lies, or distortions, as virtual chaos. Is what he says untrue, contradictory of what he said or did earlier, or just nonsensical?

These strange flights of fantasy are not new. When Barack Obama boasts that “American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years,” we know that is despite, not because of, his efforts, remembering that oil and gas leases have markedly decreased during the Obama administration, as they have soared on private and state lands. Again, how do you refute fantasy?

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Overseas Contingency Operations and Such

September 29th, 2013 - 8:42 pm

On the occasion of the outreach from Iran, and the embarrassment in Syria, it is wise to remember why and how our leaders became so inept at dealing with Islamists.

The Tsarnaev brothers killed and maimed in service to their version of Islam. So did Major Hasan, screaming Allahu Akbar as he shot his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. The Middle East is undergoing the greatest religious cleansing of Christians of the modern age. This month, eighty Christians were blown up in a church in Peshawar, Pakistan — charged, tried, and executed in a nanosecond by Muslim suicide bombers.  At about the very same time, gunmen of the Islamist terrorist group Al Shabaab from Somalia murdered nearly 70 shoppers — after torturing and mutilating many of their victims — in a Nairobi shopping mall during a children’s event. None of these massacres had anything to do with the West Bank, Americans in Iraq, maltreatment of Muslims in the U.S., unkind immigration policies, undue attention shown Muslim travelers, or much of anything other than the usual grievances such as fighting back against terrorists.

Note that Europe and the U.S. are largely silent on the religious dimensions of this now almost daily violence. Apparently the EU and America believe that their own domestic security protocols have made it difficult for Islamists like the Tsarnaevs, Hasan, or bombers from Peshawar to harvest civilians with regularity in the West — or at least that terrorists can be kept out of Chevy Chase, the Upper West Side, Martha’s Vineyard, and Santa Monica.

Here follow some random observations from Obama administration officials about Islam and its role in energizing terrorists. John Brennan, the present CIA chief and at one time the president’s chief counter-terrorism advisor, once advised us, “Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.” If Major Hasan or the Tsarnaevs do not believe in jihad or in an Islamist worldview, what, then, drove them to murder? Losing a boxing match, or perhaps a slow-moving pathway to lieutenant colonel?

Here was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: “The term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular.” Is “largely secular” different from “secular”? If Clapper is right, why would they not their change their name to the “Secular Brotherhood”?

“When I became the NASA administrator,” NASA Director Charles Bolden told Al-Jazeera in 2010, President Obama “charged me with three things.” Bolden added that “perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” Apparently, if they can “feel good,” they won’t feel bad about us, at least to the point of blowing us up.

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